Now that the initial shock of Hurricane Irene has worn off, it's time to look at the long term impacts on our communities and our economy. For starters, we can be thankful that in this region we came through this calamity as well as we did, but Vermont will be sorting out the financial impact for a number of years.
As you may know, the federal government will reimburse us 100% for repairs to roads and bridges that are part of the federal highway system. Route 4 and Route 9 are in this category. The feds will provide 75% of repairs to state roads and bridges. Vermont picks up the remaining 25%. For town roads, the feds pay 75% and the state and towns split the remaining 25%. With luck, the towns will only be on the hook for 10%. But the point here is that Vermont's 25% share of all the damaged state roads plus its share of town roads will quickly become a huge sum.
Then there are the 700 homes or so that were wrecked and hundreds of businesses that were severely damaged or destroyed. Damage to infrastructure statewide is in the hundreds of millions of dollars. There will be jobs to be had rebuilding what has been destroyed, but by and large, a displaced office worker may not have the skills to jump into construction, and so on. Thus the economic impact of people out or work may be hard to predict and vary widely from household to household and from community to community.
The legislature will have its hands full trying to come to grips with it all. The full impact will be revealed over the next several months and may be quite shocking. And this on the heals of weak economy and the goings on in Washington D.C. that we're all to familiar with. Remember that over the past several years, we already cut several hundred million dollars out of the state budget. There is very little left that can be cut. Sorting this out will be difficult and tedious. It will take our best economic and negotiating skills to see us through.
The good news it that Vermonters, no matter where we hailed from, are a resourceful, resilient determined people. Examples abound and are discovered day by day. We live in one of the more remarkable environments on the planet, but Mother Nature does take things into her own hands from time to time,
Your ideas and input are alway welcome, whether you work as part of a group or individually as best suits you. Be well, stay high and dry,
Rep. Jim Masland
Committee on Ways & Means
Thetford Center, VT